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The Benefits of Switch-Adapted Toys, and How to Make Your Own

Sep 15th, 2019 | by Lisa Murphy OTD, OTR/L, SWC
Lisa Murphy OTD, OTR/L, SWC

Lisa Murphy OTD, OTR/L, SWC

September 15th, 2019

Play is an integral piece of childhood. However, a child’s disability may present barriers which limits their access to play. Through the use of assistive technology such as switches and switch adapted toys, people with motor disabilities such as cerebral palsy, can experience independence with environmental interactions.  

What is a switch adapted toy?

Switch adapted toys are toys that have been modified so the original switches are rerouted to a larger switch that is easily accessible and easy to operate. Depending on your child’s particular challenges, the new switch may be a finger switch, foot switch or button switch of varying size and material. A NAPA favorite is the BIGmack switch available from AbleNet.  

How do you get a switch adapted toy?

You may purchase already adapted switch toys from many special needs websites as well as Amazon.  One of our favorite adapted switch toys is the Switch Spinner, which can be used to adapt many different board games.   

If you are handy, try adapting a switch-toy yourself! Even if you aren’t handy, it might be worth the effort to give it a go! In addition to this written tutorial, there are also many how-to videos available on YouTube

Use a battery interrupter to convert simple on/off battery-powered toys.  Our therapists use battery interrupters (available from Amazon) to switch adapt toys like Spin Art and Elefun.  

The benefits of playing with switch adapted toys

  • Skill Practice

Play can be a great motivator to get a child to participate in challenging motor activities. Active range of motion, eye hand coordination, and visual targeting are all skills that switch-use promotes – and the independence a switch adapted toy gives a little one might just be the thing that motivates them to get moving and try.   

  • Promoting Access to AAC

Did you know that some assistive language devices use switches to help children communicate? Introducing children who may be candidates for AAC to switches for play is a great way to introduce them to simple cause and effect, as well as promote motor competence and ability for switching. 

  • Fostering Confidence

Switch adapted toys can provide a child with the opportunity for self-generated, active engagement. As a child exerts control over the environment, he/she learns that control becomes possible, promoting increased initiation attempts and fostering a can-do, positive, and pro-active attitude. Successful engagement in early childhood provides the foundation of success for learning more complex skills later in life.  

  • Social Participation

Engaging in age-appropriate play with the help of adapted switches allows children to play with the same toys their peers are, creating commonality for forming relationships.  

About NAPA Center

At NAPA Center, we believe that every child is unique which is why we take the time to develop customized treatment plans for a range of diagnoses that affect speech, movement and cognitive development. Get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation and find out how we can help your child.

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